Former tennis players find low-impact substitute in pickleball

Rebecca R. Bibbs | The Herald BulletinJanet Mann, who came with her family for her husband, Jeff Mann's birthday, prepares to serve in a pickleball game Sunday at the Anderson Township field house.

ANDERSON – In April 2018, Jessica Jones, 41, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

In addition to treatment with medications, she was advised by her doctors to walk 10,000 steps a day and spend time at the gym. But none of those measures really seemed to help.

In August, however, the former tennis player took up pickleball, a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton played with a closed paddle and a plastic whiffle ball across a net that is shorter and lower than one used for tennis. She’s gone from playing once or twice a week to playing six days, including twice two days a week.

“Just from April to August, I didn’t have any improvement, but when I started playing pickleball, my heart function improved tremendously,” she said. “I really enjoy the exercise part. I get a great workout in a short amount of time. ... This is a little more of a quicker-paced game, and I really like that.”

Jones was one of about 140 people who took to the court Sunday at the Anderson Township Trustee Community Center. Sunday’s open play attracted former tennis pro Rick Whitsken, who now plays on the pickleball pro circuit.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, it is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, with the number of places to play doubling since 2010 to about 4,000 nationwide.

Cheryl McKinney, who in February established the Madison County Pickleball Association, said the sport is attractive for people from ages 8 to 82. She, Robin Able and Jones won the third Vesuvius Coworking Pitch Night competition in March.

“It’s a low-impact sport, so it’s easy on your knees,” she said. “We have people who have never played a sport.”

McKinney said the association is working with the Anderson Parks Department to find outdoor court space. Currently, pickleball players must share courts with tennis players, she said.

“Ideally, we would like to have some dedicated courts,” she said.

Garfield Stringer, 63, used to play tennis four or five days a week. But a diagnosis of spinal stenosis 11 years ago put an end to that.

For seven years, Stringer, who also was an avid golfer and bowler, had few ways he could exercise. But five years ago, he discovered pickleball.

“You just become addicted and ask, ‘When is the next time I can play?’” he said.

Lisa Martin, 43, is a newcomer to the pickleball scene, having taken up the sport in March after seeing a Facebook post about it.

“I didn’t want to go by myself, and I dragged my best friend,” the former tennis player said. “I play, and I have a smile on my face the entire time.”

Where to play

Beginners: 6 a.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Thursdays at Bethany Christian Church, 1920 N. Rangeline Road, Anderson.

Beginner graduate: 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Thursdays at Bethany Christian Church; 6:30 p.m. Fridays at Fall Creek Christian Church, 1102 W. 700S, Pendleton; and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays at the Anderson Township Trustee Community Center, 2828 Madison Ave., Anderson.

Beginner graduate, 2.9: 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 6 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at Bethany Christian Church; 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays at the Anderson Township Trustee Community Center.

3.0 and above: 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesdays, 6 a.m. Thursdays and 10:30 a.m. Saturdays at Bethany Christian Church; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays at Anderson Township Trustee Community Center.

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